By Joselyn King
Following recent poaching incidents at Oglebay and Grand Vue parks, local wildlife agents are asking residents to be on the watch for those engaged in illegal hunting activities.
Peter Cuffaro, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources commissioner, said if a person sees evidence of illegal hunting, they should contact the Department of Natural Resources District Office for the Northern Panhandle in Farmington at 304-825-6787, or their local sheriff's or police department.
"Residents should keep an eye out for anything unordinary," he said. "This is true even after deer season. In January, bucks still have their antlers."
Cuffaro said to be on the lookout for vehicles parked where they are not normally seen, or a vehicle driving up and down the same road numerous times. These are signs of a "road hunter," he said.
Residents should not confront the driver, but instead take down the license plate number of the vehicle and report the incident as soon as possible, he said.
"If people are going to poach, they have to pay the price - and not only financially," Cuffaro said. "They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent. If they just get a slap on the wrist, they will keep doing it."
The monetary fine for illegally killing a deer can range from $1,000 to $2,500, depending on its size, according to information provided by Cuffaro. This is in addition to a $200 cost assessed for replacement of a deer, and those convicted of additional hunting violations resulting in the injury or death of an antlered deer can be fined double the costs.
DNR officer Steve Haines said the act of spotlighting a deer in itself carries with it a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail for each incident.
"Usually, there is other criminal activity associated with poaching," he said. "That's why it is important that people call it in and report it."